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  • Writer's pictureKanhaiya Maheshwary

Red Bull's blue ocean - Marketing lessons from Red Bull's success

Over the last decade, markets across the world have been flooded with energy drinks of various kinds. Some like Monster and Rockstar have done well too, but no one has been able to build the kind of epic brand that Red Bull has managed in a relatively short span of time. And that's not the only success Red Bull has had. A major part of Red Bull's success is in creating an entirely new market segment - that of Energy Drinks. How often do we see brands doing that? In marketing parlance, we call the creation of an entirely new market a Blue Ocean strategy. It typically refers to uncharted territory that has a lot of potential for profitability due to lack of competition.

Lesson #1 - Have an eye for opportunities

Red Bull is an innovator by all means, and we have to go back in time to understand how Austrian businessman Dietrich Mateschitz harnessed this idea. Back in 1982, he had gone on a trip to Thailand, where he met fellow entrepreneur Chaleo Yoovidhya. Chaleo introduced Dietrich to a traditional Thai drink called Krating Daeng, which roughly translates to 'red guar' (a Thai term for a type of Bison). The drink offered immense energy. Dietrich realized that if exploited, this concept could become huge.

However, he didn't do anything about it immediately. He just kept the idea at the back of his mind, and returned to his homeland.

Lesson #2 - Know your Customers well

Dietrich returned to Austria and thought about his ideal customer segment. Now this is very important because the way the product would be branded and advertised depended solely on nailing the segment.

There were hard drinks for adults, and soft drinks for youngsters. But energy drink could be a whole another market in the middle.

Dietrich decided that the primary target audience would be 18-34 youngsters who enjoy high energy activities.

Lesson #3 - Create relevant brand associations

Red Bull not only did the branding right in terms of a cool name and tagline, but created a series of relevant brand associations. They were able to do so because they understood their target audience and the various touch-points where they could be reached.

  1. College Canteens: Given that the primary audience was 18-34, one of the most important touch points would be inside college canteens. Red Bull started employing attractive youngsters who would do rounds of college campuses and distribute free Red Bull cans. It became a great way to do brand activation and create awareness.

  2. Sports events: Red Bull started advertising at various arenas that hosted football (soccer) matches, racing tracks, and other high intensity sports. This was a perfect brand fit - after all, Red Bull claimed to 'give you wings', and there is hardly anything that gives a high as good as playing competitive and energetic sports.

Lesson #4 - Experiential Marketing

Red Bull took its brand positioning and tagline to the very extreme. It started conceptualizing and hosting one of a kind experiential events such as the Soapbox Race Car where participants have to build a car from homemade soapboxes and have it navigate through challenging contours. In another instance, Red Bull got world famous space diver Felix Baumgartner to jump from space. Such insane experiences are bound to attract a lot of media attention, and so was the case with this 'sonic jump'. It got several millions of impressions in earned media.

Lesson #5 - Related Diversification

Over time, Red Bull managed to diversify into the events that it had so dearly associated with all these years. It started buying and building teams across various high intensity sports such as soccer, F1 racing, and NASCAR racing.

  • Soccer - RP Leipzig (Germany) Salzgburg (Austria), RB NYC (MLS). Of these, RP Leipzig started out in the last division of German football 7 years ago, but made commendable strides to the extent that it not only finished 2nd behind Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, but also played in the Champions League semi-finals 2019-2020!

  • Ice Hockey - ECH Red Bull Munchen (Germany), and EB Red Bull Salzburg (Austria)

  • F1 Racing - Red Bull started out as a sponsor in F1, but soon rose on to become a team owner. Red Bull racing was a perfect venture for Red Bull to showcase its brand ethos of high energy, super charged lifestyle. In 2019, the Red Bull team finished 3rd overall on points, and since its inception has achieved 62 pole positions!

Red Bull's soccer clubs

Lesson #6 - Generate Content!

Ask any marketer, and they will swear by the term 'Content is King'. Nothing can get your brand buzzing as much as content can. And Red Bull not only understood this early on, but won in this game by establishing a separate media company known as Red Bull Media House. This company regularly generated buzz-worthy and engaging content for different media platforms, and also identifies user generated content that is worth amplifying. One of the primary roles of this media house is to come up with awe-inspiring stories that can resonate with the target audience.

At the end of all these lessons, I'd really like to say that Red Bull places its target audience at the heart of every activity. For them, the approach seems to be 'customers first, product second'. And this reflects in all that they've achieved and built.

As of 2020, they had sold 7.5 billion cans since the company's inception in 1987. That's almost one can per person on this planet currently.

An absolutely crazy stat, quite like the brand itself.

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